“We’ve been married 65 years and we still talk to each other,” Gordon Toole chuckles warmly. “I still feel the same about Rose as I did when we first got married, even more so.”
The two met in 1948 thanks to Rose’s brother, Louis. Louis and Gordon both worked in the Yukon at the Snag airstrip – Louis with the Royal Canadian Air Force and Gordon with the Meteorological Service (the Met Service). In 1948, when Louis headed home to Edmonton while on leave, he brought Gordon along.
“I saw him sitting on the chesterfield,” Rose remembers, “and we hit it off right off the bat.”
Gordon was en route to the new Patricia Bay base near Victoria, B.C. but after meeting Rose he quickly put in for a transfer with the Met Service to be near her.
“After I met Rose I decided Edmonton was much more attractive,” he says.
Over the next few months, the two spent as much time as possible together.
“He used to meet me at work and take me for lunches,” Rose says. “And every Saturday afternoon we’d go bowling – with my sisters as chaperones.”
Then on May 1, 1949, the two got married in Edmonton.
“It was a beautiful day,” says Rose, “Just wonderful.”
But she wasn’t as thrilled when the two moved back to Snag later that year.
“Gordon promised me we’d only be there for a few months, but we were there for two years,” she says. “When I landed and saw the Met had no accommodations for us, I wanted to get right back on the plane.”
They spent the first few months living in the mess hall while they fixed up a nearby shack. A year later, the Met Service finally had space for married couples.
“They had converted the men’s barracks into five apartments,” Rose says. “Until then it was very rustic.”
The two persevered. Soon they moved to Watson Lake and started a family: twin boys followed by four more children.
Rose’s pioneer spirit shone through when the couple began spending winters on a trapline north of Watson Lake.
“We went out for the first time in 1985 once the kids had all left home,” Gordon notes.
By then he had his pilot’s licence and Rose had her radio operator’s licence, and they were part owners of Watson Lake Flying Service. They would often fly in to one of the main cabins with supplies.
Rose kept a diary during these years, part of which she published in her book, A Promise Fulfilled: My Life on a Yukon Trapline.
“It was a lot of work to get it going, setting up the cabins and checking trails,” she says. “We went snowshoeing up the mountain in -40 C. But we loved being together all the time and we talked so much.”
“We both agreed those years were the best of our lives,” Gordon says. “We got along so well – it was just something really special.”
Now they spend winters in Whitehorse and summers in Watson Lake, visiting with their far-flung children and grandchildren whenever they can.
In both places, Rose says they have the same morning routine: “I make the coffee while Gordon’s getting ready.”
“Then I bring it to her while she’s sitting on the chesterfield watching TV,” Gordon adds. “We help each other with everything.”
To order a softcover copy of Rose Toole’s book A Promise Fulfilled: My Life on a Yukon Trapline ($40), go to http://bookstore.trafford.com.